Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taxi Ray Kottner

*6/19 Update on the passing of Taxi Ray Kottner: I heard from his niece Maria via email, who informs us that Ray "went into cardiac arrest while sitting in his cab late Saturday night" and passed the following morning. His ashes will be interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, sharing a mausoleum with the remains of luminaries like Judy Garland and Joan Crawford. Writes his niece, "So maybe it's fitting that he is ending up in the same final resting place as all of these other icons of his era." Indeed. But why is VNY thus far the only one to cover the passing of this New York icon?*

Original Post:
We received sad news from a commenter, who writes: "Taxi Ray passed away this past Saturday, June 14, 2008--right near his beloved cab. He will be greatly missed by those who knew that beneath the gruff exterior, a wonderful, funny person existed."

I've not been able to confirm this--I found no obituary, a sad fact in itself--but if it's true, then New York has lost another of the unique, "only in New York" characters that made it the maverick, vivid, and varied city it once was. Yes, New York is losing its soul--one Ray Kottner at a time.


still from Heaven-O

I was lucky to catch a ride with Ray in 2005. Last summer, when his cab was impounded by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for being unofficial (giving free rides in exchange for tips), I wrote about that ride here. It was such a thrill to encounter Ray's cab bouncing down an avenue, and even more of a thrill if it was available. I'll always remember that sunny day in his smelly, squeaky backseat, listening to him tell stories of murder and major lawsuits. To me, that was New York.

As filmmaker Jena Starkes wrote, "A ride with Ray in his Checker is truly a life event. Ray, alas, is probably the last of his breed." And, as we all know, it's a breed that is vanishing too quickly from our streets.

13 comments:

KnicksBasketballNY said...

I have seen many YUNNIES quickly exit taxi cabs as a result of some sort of disagreements with the drivers. Degrading insults directed towards the drivers often soon follow. I guess they think the drivers are beneath them. These YUNNIES have some balls. There have been a few times where I have wanted to approach one of them and confront them for being such SNOBBISH LITTLE PIECES OF SHIT. I guess they know they can always go run and hide behind some police officer standing on the corner if the driver or some bystander decides to come after them because of what they have just said.

Hopefully your friend did not let such comments bother him.

ariel said...

That has me actually tearing up at my desk.

I got a ride from Taxi Ray once in his big old cab. It felt like a miracle at the time. I tried to chat him up and if I remember right he was sort of mean about it but hey, that's his right. It was right around the taxi strike and I asked him what he thought and he talked about it for a minute, bitched about the price of gas if I remember right. It was hazy; I was exhausted; he was totally my hero in the way that only a cab can be a hero. I paid him everything I could which still wasn't a fair price for the cab ride.

I remember how glad I was to be in his cab -- this big old thing with a huge backseat, big enough for all the things from my show, with springs like old cars. He was gruff until I shut up and leaned my head on the glass and finally took a load off my feet in that magic way that happens in cabs.

I don't know how to eulogize him properly but it totally touches my heart.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank all of Ray's friends for the support they showed him over the years. a special thanks to Heavan-O for the wonderful immortalization of Taxi Ray Kottner. he will be sadly missed. his nephew, bob

Jeremiah Moss said...

bob, thank you for writing in. i was surprised to find that i'm the only one reporting your uncle's passing. he was a special guy in this city and many people knew of him. has anyone else noted it? has there been a full obituary published? his passing should be getting more attention than it is.

Anonymous said...

I was on the scene when the paramedics worked on Ray. My granddaughter really loved him and crys when we walk by Ray's cab everyday (it's still parked on 45th street) and it saddens me. Is there going to be a memorial service - he must be honored!

Lucky said...

posted it, with a link to yours. I never met him, so I'm sure it wasn't doing him justice.

Jeremiah Moss said...

lucky, that's great. and i see the link here. nice pics of cabs, by the way.

miatta ashley said...

Regarding Taxi Man Ray Kottner, I would hope that those of us who knew him would come together and pay homage to his memory. I walk by his famous checker cab, looking so desolate without Taxi Man trying to fix this or that on his cab. The roof of the cab seems to be caving in - his last soda bottles are still in the cab caught in a time warp. We on the block look out for the cab as much as we can - we hope that others who knew him will come through pretty so, so that the cab won't get towed away. Ray enough hassles the last time his cab was seized. We miss him and need to come together and honor his memory!

Anonymous said...

Greetings to all. I just found out this evening that Taxi Ray's cab will be moved tomorrow, Thursday, July 3rd, hopefully by his family. It's been sitting out there and looking to desolate without Ray's physical presence, except for a couple of bottles of sodas.........We will miss an important part of our small Hell's Kitchen family.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thank you for letting us know. i hope it finds a fitting home. maybe it could be donated to the transit museum in brooklyn. do they include cabs there or just subways and buses?

Dmitry said...

I am a friend of Ray's and I was actually the person that found the checker cab for him and had it shipped. I just recently heard of his passing and he will be greatly missed. He is a New York City Icon and should be honored as one.

Anonymous said...

Greetings to all. Well, Taxi Ray's cab was moved from 45th Street today - it must have been early this morning. No fanfare, no drama, just not there anymore. It is a sad and final chapter in the life of a true, original NYC icon. He is truly missed!!! Thanks to everybody who felt his energy and understood his spirit!!

Anonymous said...

Today marks the one year passing of our dear Taxi Ray Kottner. We,his neighbors on West 45th street, where he parked his cab for years, greatly miss him.

We hope that one of these days, those of us who cared for and appreciated him, would organize and plan some sort of memorial for him. He was definitely one in a million.

Rest in peace, "Heaven O"